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      A Matter of Certain Gravity
A Short Story - Page 2

 
  • A Matter of Certain Gravity
  • Dalipalooza
  • Internal Uprising
  • Slow Suicide
  •   I've seen a lot of naked men since then, and I have to say that although they've all been much younger and consequently firmer and more attractive, the thrill seems to have gotten less and less with each consecutive one. Now don't get me wrong, I don't hold anything against men in general, it's just that the representatives of the male race that I've come across have done as much for the image of men as the Nazis did for Germany. I suppose that someone might tell me that my choice in men is the problem, that it maybe even extends way back into my childhood, although my father was the sweetest guy I ever met, sometimes sickeningly so. It’s just that every man I've encountered has been the same: cold, domineering, and manipulative. College is just filled with the type of guys who are only interested in you when they want to be, although I think it's hard for both sexes to keep on top of a healthy relationship when you come into contact with hundreds of qualified perspective mates each and every day. It's like going to the grocery store and trying to pick out a candy bar from the infinite aisle of sweet possibilities. Although they're all fairly similar, with minor variances, you could sit there for hours trying to pick one out. And no matter which one you pick, you always wonder if you made the best decision, and contemplate what the others had to offer. Sometimes it's just easier to have minimal choices.

    Mr. Arthur Lethe.

    I had just blown off school for the summer, and although I had timidly pursued a few jobs that are always advertised on college campuses in the spring, (Cruise Ship Jobs! See Beautiful Alaska! Summer Camps!) I never bothered to show up for any of my interviews, although the thought of doing something, no matter how awful, besides working at the "Pick N Pack Burger Stand" in Bramble was ultra-appealing. But I knew that I always had a job there, and sometimes it's easier to go with what you know, no matter how tedious. Besides, Bramble had some of the best homegrown pot, courtesy of the local neo-hippies, that money could buy. And if you didn't mind wasting a couple of hours out in the woods with them, you didn't even have to pay for it – a casual summer spot, indeed.

    The transition of arriving back under parental supervision from complete freedom is always excruciatingly painful, comparable to trying to pass a quarter that someone dared you to swallow on a boring Tuesday night. You never reach anywhere past prepubescent with your parents, which becomes blatantly apparent when you come home after being away for some months. The only thing that made it bearable was staying away from the house for extended periods of time, which is easy to do during the summer, between work and long, sunny-weather activities. And although my parents somewhat objected to my staying out dangerously late, I was after all, a college student. My only reprieve came when they left for a two-week vacation to Eastern Washington. Sure they invited me, but what the hell would I do in the sagebrush and relentless sun with those two for fourteen days? They had given up full-blown partying years ago.

    Conveniently, during the same two weeks, the "Pick N' Pack" was shut down due to some sort of health code violation, which I can assure you I had no part in, since one thing that college life had taught me was how to work in a fast food atmosphere. I knew what you could and couldn't get away with. Now my parents were slightly hesitant about leaving me alone with no matter of preoccupation, especially since they hadn’t forgotten about the unfortunate incidents that resulted from the party I threw during my senior year in high school. I won't get into details, but let's just say that there was an abundance of discarded underwear involved, which we kept finding in the most unusual places months afterwards. But as I mentioned before, I was in college now.

    This is the time that my second close encounter with Mr. Arthur Lethe came about. It was the last week of July, and I was already almost halfway wishing that school would start again, as I had played out all sources of entertainment in the microcosm of Bramble. My only good friend that was left in town had gone on a road trip with her boyfriend, and although she had invited me along, it was not what I would consider an appetizing offering. Especially after they had propositioned me to join in some kinky three-way sex encounter with them. Everybody else I knew had either gotten married or had children or both, or else was sitting at home nightly, after a long workday, drowning their tedium with gallons of suspiciously cheap beer. I myself was doing a good job of baking my brains out with exceptional marijuana, and watching hideously marathon-long proportion hours of cable TV. We didn't even have a library in Bramble, but we had cable.

    After about three or four days of this, I was starting to get burnt out on drugs and daytime television, so I decided to take a hike out into the still somewhat secluded hills behind my house. I packed a lunch and some cheap beer, and struck out for the moderately high peak that lay some seven or eight miles behind our house. It had all been logged pretty well, so the trip wasn't half as nice as it used to be, although you sure could see a lot farther now. By the time I had reached the top, I was ready for an oxygen tank and a cold shower. Instead, I sat down, and rummaged through my pack for some refuel. I'll admit that the view was really beautiful, even though I had seen it a million times before.

    After lunch and a couple of beers, I decided to enhance my trip by illegal means. I felt a lot cooler after that, and more relaxed, and I stood up and looked around, trying to see if anyone was within sight. Nothing. I decided to do some "European Sunbathing," as my friends and I used to call it, so I slipped out of my clothes. Laying on my back in the warm sun, feeling a nice buzzing quality, I closed my eyes and cleared my mind.

    All of a sudden I thought of Arthur Lethe.

    I don't know why, although it might have had to do with being naked, but I kept thinking of Arthur Lethe. Nothing sexual mind you, but I actually began to wonder about this mysterious man that I hadn't seen for over ten years, and hadn't even thought about the whole time I had been home. Nobody even mentioned him anymore, as he hadn't been out of his house for who knows how long, and like all familiar things that are just out of sight, he was benign in the town consciousness. The thing was, the more I tried to forget about him, the more I wondered about why in the hell he was doing what he was doing. He had to be getting close to The End, and I wondered why he didn't give up his crusade, whatever that was, and what exactly his motivations were.

    After some contemplation, I made a definite decision. I was going to hike over to Mr. Arthur Lethe's mansion, and see if he would talk to me. Maybe the fact that the chances were slim gave me some courage, or maybe it was the illegal substances, but I decided that it was about the only interesting thing left to do in this broken town, and so I had to go for it. I stood up, and sure enough, just over the next, lower hill, I could see part of his abundant house sticking out through the trees. I knew of a trail leading there, so I put my clothes back on, picked up my pack, and started heading in that direction. I took a trail that forked off to the west, and soon I was back into the shade of some taller trees. I knew that this was his property, because he had never agreed to log off any of his property to all of the tree merchants who had to rely on private owners after the environmentalists had shut down their sweet deal of logging public land.

    I looked up into the canopy of trees, and had a flashback to the first time I went to visit the old naked ghost. I thought about my old friend who I had been spying with last time, who now had married some idiot in the army, and was living in Mississippi, or some other God-awful place. I hadn't talked to her for a couple of years, but the last time I did, she had two children, and was trying to avoid her husband's drunken fist every weekend.

    Soon I came to the back of the fenced-off estate, and made my way around to the front gate. Like a little kid, I peered around the side of the fence into the front gate. Of course he wasn't out there burning leaves, in fact there were no signs of habitation at all, and I wondered if he hadn't taken off to the South of France or something for the summer. At least there he could go naked to the beach as a matter of course. I stood back, then crept out and looked directly through the gate. To the left there was an intercom-type system, so I took one more look at the mansion, then took a deep breath, and then took the initiative to push the button on the metal box.

    "What is it?" said a crabby, crackly old voice on the other end. I just stood there, dumb. "Hello? What is it? Is anybody there? Stupid kids..." I pushed the other button.

    "Hello. Um, sorry sir. I, um, have a package here. I'm from UPS."

    "Really?” A pause. “I don't see your truck."

    "Well," I answered, "I, uh, ran out of gas a mile or so down the road. I radioed for help, though, so someone should be coming to rescue me. In the meantime, I thought I'd deliver your package."

    "Who's it from?" he crackled again.

    "Um... it says, well it doesn't have a name sir, just a return address. Los Angeles, sir." I took a stab.

    "My man is off today, so just leave it inside the gate."

    I began to question the intelligence behind my scheme. 'Fuck it,' I thought, 'I've come this far.' "Sorry, sir, but I've got to have a signature for it. Company policy, you know."

    Silence.

    "Sir?"

    "Yes I know all about that... All right, dammit... I'll just... I'll be down in a second. But I must warn you about my appearance."

    "Sir?"

    "My appearance. I'm not wearing any clothes."

    I paused for effect. "It's all right sir. I've worked with the elderly before."

    "I'm not an invalid dammit! I just don't choose to wear clothing. I'll be right down."

    The intercom snapped off, and I really started to regret my whole boredom- fueled scheme. For a moment I contemplated taking off, but drugs can make you do weird things. The front door opened and out walked Mr. Arthur Lethe in all of his wrinkled glory. He was carrying a large umbrella to shield himself from the brilliant sun, and I could see that he hadn't lost anything in his old age. In fact he looked about the same as when I had seen him last. The closer he got, the more I started to sweat, and the more I tried to avoid looking at his admirable unmentionables. I needed to think of a way to persuade him to have a talk with me, even though I knew it was futile. He finally hobbled to a stop on the other side of the gate, not five feet away from me. I was really starting to sweat now, and couldn't avoid taking a peek at his member.

    "Well, where is it?" he grumbled.

    "Hmm?" I asked, snapped out of my perverse trance.

    "What the hell – where's my package? And where's your uniform? Wait a minute; is this some kind of joke? Damn kids these days..." He turned around, and started to storm back to the house as best he could in his old age. I panicked, and did the first stupid thing that popped into my mind.

    "No wait!" I yelled. He turned around and glared at me. I threw my pack on the ground, and started taking off my clothes. "Mr. Lethe," I coaxed, "I just wanted... to... ugh, talk to you." I was completely naked again, and we stood there starting at each other, me with a 'How’s about it?' face, and him looking skeptical. I don't know if it was the fact that he hadn't seen a real, live naked young woman in ages, or if he was just generally intrigued, but he just stood there for about thirty seconds staring at me. Then he turned around and scuttled back into the house.

    I just stood there, naked, feeling somewhat stupid, and a little bit rejected in that he had turned down my somewhat firm young body. Suddenly, the gate lurched, and began to swing open. I grabbed my belongings, took one last thought, and ran up to the front door. As I reached the porch, he opened the door, and stood staring, once again, at me.

    "All right, you can come in," he said. "But you have to leave your things, including your clothes, at the door. Who knows what the hell you could have in there." I thought about the idea of going into a naked man's home, naked myself, out in the middle of nowhere. It looked like I could subdue him, if it came to that, so I dropped my things and followed him inside.

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